Copán Ruins

Copán, Honduras

All photographs are thumbnails.



Two separate areas are the focus of most archeological interest of this very important ruin site. The main area is a huge complex consisting of several plazas and many temples built on various levels. This larger site, Copán, is Mayan, whereas the smaller one, Las Sepulturas, is Lenca and about a kilometer from the main one. Both sites sit in an unbelievably verdant valley bisected by the Rio Chamelecón. Forested mountains surround big tobacco farms in this valley. The sky is free of pollution and you can watch the shadows of passing clouds move along the mountains and over the tobacco fields. The setting is pristine in its beauty and serene in its peacefulness. The jungle that surrounds Copán is lush, tall and filled with sounds of a variety of animals. One sees monkeys, colorful guacamayas (large parrots), tree sloths and peccaries, which look like very large, short-haired, fat, round guinea pigs and have gold pelts flecked with black.

As one of the greatest treasures of art and architecture in the Americas, Copán is known for its beautiful temples, altars and stelae. The stelae are three to five meters tall and two to three meters around. Carved in extremely intricate high relief, they are portraits of the greatest rulers in the history of the city. Many are round on one side (the figure side) and flat on the other. The flat sides are laden with hieroglyphs which describe the power and politics of the dignitary depicted and the ideology of the times. Impressive in detail and humbling in size, these unique sculptural monuments make Copán shine among the ruin sites of the Maya and are invaluable to our understanding of this lost civilization.

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